Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cuadecuc, Vampir: 1970 Spanish Underground Dracula Film Shot as Attack on General Franco

Here's an extremely rare underground Halloween treat for anyone who loves film. Ah, but only the very fewest of you will actually watch this all the way through! Give it a try. Not only is this film underground... it's underhanded. Pere Portabella made 'Cuadecuc, Vampir' in 1970 by filming on the set of a Christopher Lee film called 'Count Dracula' that was being directed by Jesus Franco. Portabella's underground classic is on its surface a silent horror film. But it's also a documentary about the making of the Dracula film. It tells its story by stealing scenes from the feature being shot around it, almost as if the film were a mashup of existing footage! The high-contrast black and white photography evokes such cinema greats as Carl Theodor Dreyer's 'Vampyr' and F.W. Murnau's 'Nosferatu.' We see typical horror scenes like a stagecoach racing through the wilderness, or a dusty crypt, interrupted by the arm of a prop person using a fan to blow fake spiderwebs or a cameraman shooting from behind furniture. These slippages from horror into documentary actually produce a weird terror when you realize that the film was being shot under the watchful eyes of Spain's dictator, General Francisco Franco. What the film really is underneath all the fantastic and disturbing imagery is a vicious attack on Franco and the false media manipulation that keeps all dictators in power. The portrait it paints of Franco himself is one of a sad, disturbed and largely ineffective vampire who lives inside a mental construction based on the past. The other characters in the film seem to be wandering through this psychotic realm, trying to find a way out.

The soundtrack incorporates jet engines, muzak, electronic music, opera singing, jackhammers, stuck records and various other electronic sounds. Don't let this throw you because the soundtrack is one of the most eerie and unsettling that you will ever hear.

And I'm thinking that Criterion needs to jump on this and make a nice blu-ray release out of it.

Pere Portabella has a web site.

The Dystopian Trilogy: A Film by James Schneider

James Schneider made 'The Dystopian Trilogy' in 1993, mainly through the use of found footage. Its three parts, 'Faerie-Monition,' 'Oasis,' and 'Median Strip,' convey modern Americans' infatuation with closing off entire communities from the rest of the world for some theoretical benefit. The first part deals with the corporatization and homogenization of imagination through eerie footage of Euro-Disney. The second part focuses on a gated community near Las Vegas. The third contrasts and connects the freedom of the modern highway to the growth of our prison system and the fast-growing outrage of private prisons run for profit. This last part, when seen in light of today's use of immigration law to fill corporate-owned prisons with people who are turned into a slave workforce, is particularly frightening.